From the archives: 1989 – Having a diversity policy is a stupid idea, say firms

Nowadays, every firm worth its salt champions its diversity credentials, but it wasn’t always so, as this article from a 1989 edition of The Lawyer shows.

Back then, The Law Society’s idea that firms should add the statement ‘We are equal opportunities employers’ was roundly rebuffed.

“I don’t work for the People’s Republic of North Islington,” one partner scoffed. “We want to be perceived as apolitical. A statement like that is seen as a political stance.”

“I think it is inappropriate for a professional ad, agreed Allen & Overy senior partner John Kennedy.

While Linklaters training partner Robert Williams disagreed that such a statement would put off clients (“It’s difficult to believe anyone would look on Linklaters as loony lefty”) he still felt it would “look rather strange. We don’t discriminate, full stop. To have to make a statement that we don’t somehow seems to introduce doubt.”

The Law Society’s Jerry Garvey was left to make the counter-argument: “It’s not enough just to not discriminate. Because of the traditional image of the profession, they need to spell out that they don’t.”

The full article is below.

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